With Rahul Gandhi having given his final nod, the Congress party on Monday released its first list of 73 candidates for the next state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Election to the 403-member UP assembly are due in May 2012, though the election commission had indicated February as the probable schedule for the poll.
The list, finalised after much deliberation, includes the names of prominent party leaders, who have proved their strength by winning the last state election or those who put up a good fight in 2007 assembly election.
Prominent among these are state Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi, who has been named as the party nominee for the Lucknow cantonment seat, and Congress Legislature Party leader Pramod Tiwari ,who has been emerging victorious since the past three decades from the Rampur Khas seat in Pratapgarh.
Wives of three important Congress MPs have also been awarded party tickets. These include sitting Farrukhabad MLA Louis Khurshid, wife of Union law minister Salman Khurshid, Amita Singh, wife of Sultanpur MP Sanjay Singh, and Supriya Aron, wife of Barielly MP Praveen Singh Aron , from Barielly Cantonment.
A journalist-turned-politician, Supriya is currently the mayor of Barrielly.
Other prominent names include Pradeep Mathur (Mathura), Ajay Kapoor (Kidwai Nagar, Kanpur), Ranjit Singh Judeo (Garhaura), Vivek Singh (Banda), Anugrah Narain Singh (Allahabad North), Shiv Ganesh Lodhi (Harchandpur, Rae Bareli), Shiv Balak Pasi (Salon, Amethi) and Shyam Kishore Shukla (Lucknow West)
The list of candidates was finalised by the Congress Election Committee headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Also figured prominently in the meeting were Rahul and AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh who is also incharge of the party's affairs in the state, besides Congress Legislature Party leader Pramod Tiwari and the state party president Rita Bahuguna Joshi.
It was quite unusual for the Congress party to have released its list of candidates way before the elections. According to party insiders, this was done largely on account of the intervention of Rahul Gandhi, who was apparently prompted by the early release of list of nominees by the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party.
Though Rahul has been concentrating mostly on his own parliamentary constituency, Amethi and his mother's Rae Bareli seat, party leaders claim that the Gandhi scion is all set to devote a large part of his energies on campaigning across the entire length and breadth of UP. The party has been out of power from the country's most populous state since 1989.